The Malawi Electoral Support Network (Mesn) has welcomed the decision by the Electoral Commission (EC) to reverse the use of biometric voter registration system in next year’s general elections.
The biometric voter registration system uses fingerprints and facial features to identify each voter. In an earlier interview, EC chief elections officer Willie Kalonga said the technology detects multiple registrations and deters voters from casting votes more than once.
He said the biometric system was also included in the K14.2 billion (about $39.4 million) elections budget which the commission presented to government.
The change comes after the EC issued a press statement on March 7 informing the public that it will use the biometric voter registration system, a development which irked political parties and various organisations.
In the statement, the commission argued that the old method of registering voters did not have an inbuilt mechanism for accurate capturing of fingerprints and the upcoming voter registration would require each voter to re-register to replace the voters ID cards.
But in an interview on Wednesday, Kalonga said the reversal followed the complaints by stakeholders, including the media, and also because of international reports that rated the voter registration system poorly.
Kalonga said after consultations, the EC decided to roll out the system in 2019 because there would be many risks of adopting it within a short period of time.
“EC understands that stakeholders are not against the biometric voter registration system, but they want the EC to take time before its implementation. The system will, therefore, be used in 2019,” said Kalonga.
Commenting on the development, Mesn publicity secretary Steven Duwa said the network had campaigned against the implementation of the biometric system in 2014 and said it was a good development that EC had listened to its stakeholders’ queries.
“EC has made a commendable gesture to reverse the use of the new voter registration system. It shows that the commission listens to its stakeholders and we hope that it will continue to be understanding and it will consult widely before rolling out anything new,” said Duwa.
United Democratic Front (UDF) secretary general Kandi Padambo also commended EC for the reversal.
Padambo said UDF had requested for the system to be run on trial basis during by-elections to establish its effectiveness before it was implemented on elections as complicated as the upcoming 2014 tripartite elections.